Work restructuring in mines a challenge

The South African mining industry’s inability to create sustainable jobs is caused by complex challenges.

Labour broking, casualisation, the sub-contracting of work in the mines and the weak South African legislation, as well as political interference, have been identified as some of the challenges.

These factors are blamed for crippling the potential of the South African mining industry to create much-needed jobs.

These issues were highlighted during a workshop themed: “Work Restructuring: Casualisation and Sub-contracting of work in the South African mining industry”.

Held recently in Johannesburg, the event focused on work restructuring. Few mines still operating in the Free State, such as Welkom, Virginia, Odendaalsrus and Allanridge, suffer the same predicament.

Representatives of organisations such as the National Union of Mineworkers, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Sam Tambani Research Institute, made presentations on their findings.

Mamokgethi Molopyane, mining and labour analyst, said the Statistics South Africa Quarter 1 of 2017 report revealed that production went down and that a third of mining labour are contracted.

She said disunity in the mines has resulted in the classification of workers, permanent workers, contract workers, labour broker workers and sub-contractors.

“Casual workers do not have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or medical benefits and are not protected by law. They are passive and are easily ‘recycled’. Permanent workers refuse to be retrenched while casual workers are still employed,” Molopyane said.

Due to the division, trade unions have a difficulty to organise. “Signing incomplete contracts by casual workers also poses a big challenge to unions. Casual workers who came via labour brokers agree to lesser pay and this makes permanent workers to be seen as difficult or making unnecessary demands,” she said.

Molopyane said weak legislation and non-compliance to labour laws were causing exploitation.

“Core jobs are out-sourced to small companies that are unable to sustain the project. This, in turn, affects workers. These companies work for two to three years and workers are made union members. Then, when the contracts expire, their jobs end too. When new companies come, the unions have to recruit new members,” she said.

“A case in point is when a company like Eskom has a tender and gives it to employer A, then employer A decides to subcontract because he does not have the necessary skills. This becomes a problem, because the subcontractor does not account to Eskom, but to employer A. Employer A would say the subcontractor must account to Eskom, but Eskom is the big boss,” Molopyane explained.

“Legislation has loop holes. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is unable to resolve such cases, as Eskom does not recognise the sub-contracted company.”

She said political interference that affects mining production was due to politicians having shares.

“When workers strike, the ­politicians come with their own agendas and for their own gains – not for that of the workers,” said Molopyane.

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